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Japan mobile carriers to expand beyond Sony NFC standard

Japan’s three biggest mobile phone companies said that they would adopt international standards for touch payment systems, expanding beyond the current implementation by Sony.

NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank said they will work together in the newly formed “Japan Mobile NFC Consortium” to bring the country in line with overseas trends.

The companies currently use the NFC, or near field communication, standard called FeliCa, developed and owned by Sony, but said they will incorporate two other standards that are more common abroad, known as “Type A” and “Type B.”

As in other countries, the technology allows users to pay for train tickets, food and other purchases by placing a card near special readers.

In Japan many phones also come with the technology built in, but foreign-made phones must be modified to work in the existing ecosystem, which is run by DoCoMo and called “Osaifu Keita,” or “wallet phone.”

The companies, which collectively have about 124 million contracts in a country with a total population of under 130 million, are eager to squeeze more income out of mobile devices, as price wars cut revenue and massive investments in next-generation networks weigh on their balance sheets.

Encouraged by the government, they are also moving to adopt more international standards after long years of developing Japan-only implementations, a trend that led analysts to dub the country’s mobile industry “Galapagos,” because technologies evolved cut off from the rest of the world.

The move away from a Sony-dependent technology should also lower costs for the mobile trio, analysts said.

A joint press release announcing the founding of the consortium said the companies want to free users from having to worry about different NFC standards as well as “create an environment where service providers can offer efficient, low-cost NFC services.”

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